Burkina Faso + 5 more

IRIN Update 663 of events in West Africa

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UNITED NATIONS
Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Integrated Regional Information Network for West Africa
Tel: +225 20 21 73 54
Fax: +225 20 21 63 35
e-mail: irin-wa@irin.ci

SIERRA LEONE: Rebels block UN peacekeepers

Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels blocked a group of UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) peacekeepers on patrol in the eastern part of the country on Thursday.

Two companies from Ghana and India were stopped by about 300 RUF at Bendu, located between Kenema and Daru, on the way to the diamond-rich town of Koidu, a UNAMSIL spokesman in Freetown told IRIN.

The rebels were "tactically deployed" on high ground above the UN troops and were heavily armed, UNAMSIL said. "This means that the RUF were in fighting positions," the source said. "They had about 6 to 7 rocket-propelled grenade launchers."

After several hours of fruitless negotiations, assisted by Mike Lamine, a former RUF officer who is now a member of the government, the peacekeepers decided to withdraw.

"They decided that there was no point in an armed confrontation," the UNAMSIL source told IRIN.

NIGERIA: Authorities in Kaduna set up commission of enquiry

The state authorities have set up a judicial commission of enquiry made up of Muslims and Christians to investigate reasons for several days of violence in Kaduna this week, news organisations reported.

Acting Governor Stephen Shakari, inaugurating the five-member commission on Thursday, said that the judicial panel had been put in place "to investigate the unfortunate act, with a view to bringing to book for appropriate action those responsible for such acts", 'The Guardian' quoted him as saying.

The panel will be responsible for investigating the causes of the violence, identifying individuals and organisations that might have contributed to the riot, and assessing the loss of lives and damage to property. It will then recommend appropriate legal action against those responsible and advise the government on measures to be taken to avoid similar disturbances in the future, 'The Guardian' reported.

Violent clashes between Muslims and Christians erupted on Monday following a march organised by the Christian Association of Nigeria in opposition to the proposed introduction of Islamic Sharia law in Kaduna State.

Meanwhile the authorities have started to clean up the streets of Kaduna following the violence, news reports said on Thursday. Decomposing bodies lying in the roads are now being cleared away and burned out cars are also being removed, eyewitnesses told IRIN. Although no official death toll has been released, a member of the House of Representatives said on Wednesday that over 100 people had died while human rights organisations based in Kaduna estimate that 300-400 people may have been killed. Police and troops were also under orders to keep security tight around mosques ahead of Friday prayers, news reports said.

NIGERIA: US expresses concern

US State Department spokesman James Rubin has expressed concern over the communal clashes in Kaduna. "We deplore the violence and loss of life and urge everyone to respect the fights of all Nigerians and to find peaceful means to resolve differences," a news release said. He said he hoped the events of this week will lead to eventual reconciliation and dialogue.

NIGERIA: Kano reassures citizens

The Kano State government said on Thursday that it is taking steps to prevent Sharia riots in nearby Kaduna from spreading to the city, news organisations reported.

The state government said that there was no cause for alarm and measures were being taken to deal with the activities of some elements wanting to disrupt the peace by "fostering unnecessary confusion," 'The Guardian' reported. Many shops and schools were closed on Thursday following a dispute by some football fans which was misconstrued as a religious riot, AFP reported a spokesman in the governor's office as saying.

Kano is one of several northern states currently considering the implementation of Sharia. The governors of Niger and Sokoto states have both signed bills under which Sharia is expected to come into effect in May. Zamfara State officially adopted Islamic law in January.

NIGERIA: Rights group mounts legal challenge to Sharia

A human rights group has initiated a legal challenge to the adoption of Sharia by Zamfara State, PANA reported on Thursday.

Human Rights Law Service filed a suit on Wednesday at the Zamfara High Court seeking clarification on the constitutionality of Sharia which raises the question of whether its application "would not endanger the continuance of a federal government in Nigeria", PANA reported. No date has been set for the hearing.

SENEGAL: Governments ask nationals to stay indoors

The governments of Britain, France and other countries have asked their nationals to remain indoors in anticipation of growing violence before the presidential polls on Sunday.

Opponents of the ruling Parti socialiste (PS) burned two houses on Thursday belonging to the PS mayor of Rufisque, some 25 km east of Dakar, the head of a human rights organisation told IRIN. The same day in Thies, a town some 70 km east of the capital, rival PS and Parti democratique senegalais (PDS) supporters burnt each others' party offices. The human rights official, Alioune Tine, executive secretary of the Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l'homme, said three people were shot and wounded during the fracas.

This incident occurred before incumbent President Abdou Diouf and his staunchest rival, PDS leader Abdoulaye Wade, made campaign stops in the town.

Last week the offices of the Parti liberal senegalais (PLS) headed by Ousmane Ngom was burnt down. Ngom, a former lieutenant of Wade, has now thrown his weight behind the PS.

President Diouf, facing the greatest challenge since assuming power in 1981 has appealed for calm and has said he would support the winner of the election. "This is the first time he has publicly envisaged defeat," Tine said.

COTE D'IVOIRE: Over 100 Liberian refugees repatriated from Guiglo

Just over 100 Liberian refugees returned home from Guiglo in eastern Cote d'Ivoire last week in transport provided by UNHCR, according to a UNHCR official in Abidjan.

The source told IRIN that small groups of Liberians had been going back and forth across the border but that this was the first time that the UN agency had assisted in the repatriation of the refugees since violence erupted in Liberia's northern Lofa County last August.

There are currently some 40,000 Liberian refugees in Cote d'Ivoire.

EQUATORIAL GUINEA: Six presidents attend regional peace summit

Six heads of state from Central Africa attended a summit in Equatorial Guinea on Thursday to vote on the adoption of a regional peace and security body, AFP reported.

The CommunautÚ Úconomique des Etats d'Afrique centrale (CEEAC) was called on to ratify the adoption of a peace and security council in Central Africa and a pact for mutual assistance. The presidents of Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Sao Tome e Principe were present, while the rest of CEEAC's 11 members sent ministers, except for Rwanda which was not represented, AFP reported.

BURKINA FASO: Commission wants political killings punished

Burkina Faso's National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) has asked the government to arrange special trials of people implicated in economic crimes in the country and punishment for those guilty of political killings, PANA reported.

In a report released in the capital Ougadougou on Wednesday the NRC made several recommendations including the setting up of a special department in each district court to examine cases of embezzlement of public funds, punishment for those found guilty of committing some 60 cases of political killings, and compensation for the widows and orphans of victims. It made special recommendations for the acceleration of investigations into the death of David Oudraogo, journalist Norbert Zongo and his companions, and the adoption of strict laws to punish torturers.

The NRC was set up by President Blaise Campaore in November to try to resolve the political crisis which arose after the killing of Zongo in December 1998. At the time of his death Zongo was investigating the murder of David Ouedraogo, driver of President Compaore's younger brother, Francois.

[ENDS]

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